What is viral hepatitis?
Viral hepatitis is a virus that affects the liver, and include hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. Hepatitis A, B and C are most common in Australia.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis?
Not everyone with hepatitis will have symptoms. When they do occur, they may include:
- abdominal pain or discomfort,
- loss of appetite,
- dark urine,
- painful joints,
- swelling (oedema), and
- jaundice (yellow skin and eyes).
What causes hepatitis?
Hepatitis A and E generally spread through contact with contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B and D spread through contact with an infected person’s blood or other bodily fluids, and hepatitis C with blood only.
Hepatitis A and B can be avoided through vaccination.
What treatment options are available?
The treatment will depend on the type of hepatitis you have.
No specific treatment is needed. Alcohol and medication should be avoided while the liver is recovering.
Treatment may not be required, however it is important to monitor the liver regularly to detect any changes. If treatment is required, antiviral drugs may be used.
Combination therapy is suggested for hepatitis C, which can lead to eradication (cure). This may include two or three of: pegylated interferon injections (a signaling protein), ribavirin (an antiviral medication) and an antiviral protease inhibitor (such as Boceprevir or Telaprevir).
Hepatitis D can be acute (short term) or chronic (long term). Acute infections will often resolve themselves without treatment. Chronic hepatitis D may respond to peg interferon (a signaling protein).
As hepatitis E is often an acute infection, meaning it is short-term, the body will often fight off the infection without any help.
Over time, chronic hepatitis (caused by either hepatitis B or C) can cause cirrhosis and cancer of the liver.